When a band is one of the most talked about things on the British music scene, in magazines, on the radio and TV, not to mention their online presence, you expect huge things from them. Their latest album received huge critical success, and they played the O2 Academy Birmingham tonight.
Friday nights at the Academy are home to the Propaganda club night, which means that the doors open earlier than normal. I forgot this and because of it, I missed seeing the first act, ROAM. A little unfortunate, as I do like their brand of rock music, but I missed them. I’ll try and catch them at one of the many festivals that they’re playing this year, for sure.
I didn’t miss Hands Like Houses, however. And damn, I am so glad. SO GLAD. Hands Like Houses are from the land Down Under, and have toured with Enter Shikari, amongst others, earning themselves a reputation for being one of the best live bands to come out of Australia. With an energy that is just incomparable, they take the stage and make it feel like they should be the headliners. They have a small following in the crowd already, but within half of their set, not even that, they have the entire crowd doing whatever they want. Clapping, bouncing, even a circle pit (that one was not asked for, but went by very much appreciated by the band). They were incredible, and definitely did their job as a support band. And they’re Australian, so when they talk, I listen. Intently. (I love the Australian accent)
I'll be catching these guys again. It would appear that the majority of tonight's audience will be there with me.
Ok, I’m going to have to admit something now. I’ve seen this next band I’m going to talk about a number of times. A large number of times. I don’t know how many times, it’s been that many. And the majority of times, it’s not totally intentional.
I’ve seen Young Guns A LOT. I can’t talk about them much more, as I'm running out of ways to describe them. Other than to say that they’ve improved with EVERY time I’ve seen them.
Gustav Wood controlled the crowd, and does the job of warming the crowd up, with incredible showmanship.
They did play a new song. And it was awesome. Their set spanned their career, from “Weight of the World” (from Mirrors (Their first EP)), through “Bones”, and “Bulletproof”. No doubt I’ll see these guys again, somewhere down the line.
So, time for the Main Event of the evening. Actually… Before I get to that, I have to comment on the crew’s ability to turn the entire stage round for each band’s set up. It was lightning fast, without a single error. Back to the task at hand.
Lower Than Atlantis have a simple set up. The drum kit is on a riser, with a big white backdrop behind it, a set of lights either side of the stage, masking the cases of guitars waiting in the wings. Or so I thought. After a short while, I’m proven wrong. There’s a projector, projecting live streams of the band on stage, from the cameras, subtly placed around the stage, along with some graphics and screensaver kind of things. It's pretty awesome, and has a DIY feel to it, which offsets the current trend of LED video boards and the like. It screams originality, and is perfectly timed with the music.
They enter the stage individually, drawing huge cheers with each entrance. When Mike Duce enters, the place erupts. “Had Enough” begins the proceedings, and from the very start, one thing is clear. There is no need for a vocalist tonight. This crowd sings every note, on point, and it seems to genuinely blow the band away. Their smiles can be seen from the very back of the room.
At one point, Duce has a request for his audience; “sing your dicks off”. The instruction is very much unneeded. Every single song, the crowd is louder than the band on stage. The microphones seem to have been turned up at one point, but it still isn’t loud enough. It’s a good time to have a sore throat if you’re in Birmingham, I’ll bet.
After a brief explanation on why the album is called “Safe In Sound”, it’s on with the show again. This set doesn’t have a weak song. It’s like in How I Met Your Mother, when Barney describes the ultimate “Get Psyched” mix. It’s “all rise”, all the way to the end. The only relatively slow moment is “Another Sad Song”, and the start of “Words Don’t Come So Easily”, and those moments are all the more poignant for it.
The set closes on a one-two punch of “English Kids in America” and the absolutely ginormous “Here We Go”, the latter of which has Mike Duce offer to jump in the crowd, providing Birmingham sings along loudly, which doesn’t need to be repeated. He’s in the crowd, trying to get a selfie and make the most of the moment, on a night he’s called “the best gig in the last year”, before getting back on the stage and smashing up of the equipment on stage, because Lower Than Atlantis are rock’s next biggest stars, and are set to take over the world, on this album.
I envisage the next tour being a stadium affair, so if you miss out, you’ll regret it. Catch these guys wherever and whenever you can. And if you ever contemplate going to a gig that isn’t in your local area, I wholeheartedly recommend Birmingham. Beautiful venues, and incredible crowds.
Let’s hope they appear at some of the festivals this summer, so we can see them again and again and again.
Words: Adam Reynolds Photos: Hollie Turner